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Mashantucket Tribal Police chief retires after 44 years in area law enforcement

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After a 44-year career in law enforcement, William Dittman retired last week from his role as chief of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police Department.

His career, which began in 1976 with the New London Police Department, spanned more than four decades as he worked his way up from patrolman to chief, navigating everything from the 1979 oil crisis to this year’s global pandemic.

On Tuesday, Dittman was lounging by his pool as he reflected on his long career in Mashantucket, New London and a brief stint with Scotland Yard in London. He recalled the days when police didn’t have portable radios and didn’t have enough gas to keep their patrol cars running and shared stories of being shot at and digging into murder investigations that have stuck with him to this day.

He said his career, which formally ended on May 29, “was so very rewarding.”

Dittman, a New London native, joined the New London Police Department in 1976. After coaching little league in his hometown for years, he said he knew the ins and outs of the community and was happy to have a sense of trust established with the civilians he encountered on the job.

Shortly after joining the force, he began his post-secondary education and went on to earn an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration. In 1985, he attended a criminal justice study tour of London Metropolitan Police where he worked with Scotland Yard and several other British law enforcement agencies through the University of New Haven.

Throughout his career, he arrested 74 wanted fugitives and was named police officer of the year twice in New London. He said he was most challenged by cases that involved children and domestic violence, the latter of which he said he saw often at the casino hotels.

This year, Dittman helped his community navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing patrols at the casinos and blocking off entrances to vehicles and pedestrians to limit the spread of the virus.

He said it was “eerie” to see the casinos, normally packed with locals and tourists, so empty. He declined to comment on the decision to reopen casinos on June 1.

Dittman, who was named chief of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police Department in 2012, became the first Mashantucket police officer to be certified by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council. He said the members of tribal police department bring a wealth of experience to the community and “are some of the best around.”

“Chief Dittman’s mission was to get our police department POST-certified by the State of Connecticut, thus eliminating Connecticut State Police presence in Mashantucket and making our department fully responsible for our sovereign jurisdictional area, and he has certainly accomplished this goal and then some,” Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, said in a statement. “The department was awarded POST certification by the chief state’s attorney and commissioner of the state police in 2014, and over the years has gained the respect of numerous municipal, state and federal law enforcement agencies."

"We thank Chief Dittman for his service to our Tribal Nation and wish him and his family all the best,” Butler said.

Dittman entered retirement amidst a global pandemic and just as protests broke out across the nation against police brutality. The former chief said that overseeing a police department during an unprecedented pandemic was a challenge, but one that his officers stepped up to. He said he was proud of the precautions his department took to keep their community safe.

In response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, Dittman spoke out last week, condemning former police officer Derek Chauvin’s actions.

"It's just, it's unfathomable and I don't know what in God's name possessed the officer to do that — I just don't know," he said.

"Police officers, you have to do what's right. What happened in Minneapolis was terrible, I've never seen anything like it,” he said.

When Dittman was rising through the ranks and even training officers himself, he said the bottom line was that handcuffs were there to subdue a subject. "I have never in 44 years seen anything like that."

George Potts will serve as interim-chief of the Mashantucket department following Dittman’s retirement.

To the next chief, Dittman said, “make sure you’re fair and honest, with the tribal government and you’re fair and honest with the men and women of this police department."

In his retirement, he said he is looking forward to spending time with his family, fishing and traveling overseas - as soon as it’s safe, of course.

 

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